GENEVA – Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen sent letters and emails to local officials informing them of the proposal from Kane County Cougars owner Dr. Bob Froehlich seeking a partnership with the Kane County Forest Preserve District to spend $9 million in upgrades to Northwestern Medicine Field.
In all, Lauzen sent 27 letters to all the mayors and village presidents in the county and a financial consultant, and also sent a group email to five county board members with a copy of Froehlich’s proposal.
Lauzen said he is not advocating for the proposal, nor should his letters be considered lobbying for support from the county’s other elected officials. Instead, Lauzen said he was just providing information as per the request of Froehlich, who is a friend.
“I’m a huge fan of the Cougars,” Lauzen said. “I am a friend of Dr. Bob. I think that he has done a spectacular job in ownership of the Cougars. He is one of the people who sparkles in Kane County. We are so fortunate to have this partnership, this alliance with what he does.”
Lauzen said his letters constitute correspondence without advocacy.
“I was asked to share information with folks in the area who I have a nice working relationship with, which I am happy to do,” Lauzen said. “I do try to keep people up to date.”
‘Align our mutual interests’
Lauzen’s group email, dated March 5, was sent to County Board members Deb Allen, D-Elgin; Kurt Kojzarek, R-Elgin; Bill Lenert, R-Sugar Grove; John Martin, R-Geneva; and Susan Starrett, R-North Aurora.
Lauzen’s message stated he wanted to give them a “heads up.”
“If there’s a way that we can align our mutual interests over the longer term, all of our constituents will benefit more,” Lauzen’s email stated. “At this point, this is still early. So, if you don’t mind, let’s let them present on March 20 before we start talking about it.”
Froehlich’s proposal reduces the Cougars’ rent for the stadium to $600,000 per year from the current $700,000. The proposal then calls for taking $300,000 from the rent each year for 15 years to reinvest in the stadium. Froehlich proposed that the Kane County Forest Preserve District should match this amount, resulting in a $9 million investment in the 28-year-old stadium.
The March 14 emailed letters on Kane County letterhead were sent to the county’s five mayors and 21 village presidents and David Phillips of Speer Financial Inc., public finance consultant for the Kane County Forest Preserve Commission.
The emailed letters stated that Lauzen had been asked by Froehlich to share the information.
“We are delighted with our association with Dr. Bob and our Cougars,” Lauzen’s missive stated. “When I’m anywhere in northern Illinois and identify myself as a Kane County resident, people perk up and say, ‘Oh, yeah, the Kane County Cougars!’ ... Little do they know all the contributions, financial and social, the Cougars make behind the scenes to our general welfare.”
Lauzen’s letter concludes with a thank you for taking time to read through Froehlich’s presentation and a hand-drawn smiley face.
‘Make Northwestern Medicine Field Great Again’
The cover design for this version of the proposal is a red hat similar to the one President Donald Trump used in his 2016 campaign, stating, “Make Northwestern Medicine Field Great Again.”
A later version of the proposal dropped the Trump-style hat in favor of the Cougars’ logo and was titled “A Public/Private Partnership Plan to Keep the Kane County Cougars in Kane County.”
The second version was presented March 20 in a private gathering of five County Board members, officials said.
The proposal has yet to be included on a forest preserve commission agenda, according to online meeting notices.
In a text message, Froehlich declined to comment about the change in the presentation from the Trump-style hat to the Cougars logo – or to answer questions about anything else.
“I have no public comment at this time,” Froehlich’s text message stated.
Though the stadium is in Geneva Township, but not in the city, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said he appreciated Lauzen’s heads up.
“For a quarter century, Geneva and the Kane County Cougars have been inextricably linked and that is why I am so grateful to the chairman and the Cougars organization for providing me and the city council the information relative to their respective relationship moving forward,” Burns said.
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he didn’t have anything to say about the letter from Lauzen, nor Froehlich’s proposal.
“It’s not in my town,” Schielke said. “He was kind enough to include me in his email distribution, but any decision rests with the forest preserve commission. The Batavia city limits stop at Fabyan Parkway.”